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« Defeating the "one-right-answer" mentality | Main | BFTP: Quit Leading and Start Managing »

Black Hills: Adventure and Accomplishment

Get your nose out of those comic books and look at the scenery. (Trip to Black Hills, 1965)

Get your nose out of those video games and look at the scenery. (Trip to Black Hills, 2011)

The LWW and I got home about noon yesterday after a wonderful week in the Black Hills of South Dakota with grandsons Paul, age 10, and Miles, age almost 6. My parents took my sister and me there in the 60s and I took my son in the 90s. I think we saw and did everything on our respective lists of 'things to do"*

A few rules and some observations about traveling with the grands...

Rule 1: Eat ice cream at least once a day. (Across from the Corn Palace in Mitchell.)

Rule 2: Climb rocks whenever you get the chance. (Badlands.)

Rule 3: Always believe your grandpa when he tells you about things like jackalopes. (Wall Drug.)

See Rule 2 (Sylvan Lake.)

Rule 4: Get your picture at famous places to prove you've been there. (Mount Rushmore.)

Rule 5: Be loving to your brother because he may never return from his next adventure. (Harney Peak trail head.)

Rule 6: Challenge yourself. (Fire tower at summit of Harney Peak - highest point east of the Rocky Mountains. 1200 ft elevation gain, 8 mile hike.)

Rule 7: Take pride in your accomplishments. (The bump Paul is pointing to is the fire tower to which he hiked.)

Rule 8: A little rain never hurt anybody. (A short, violent rain/sleet storm added excitement to our open-sided jeep safari in Custer Park. We survived despite Miles's prediction "We're all gonna die!")


See Rule 2: Rocks at Sylvan Lake where Miles made the statement, "This is the worst day of my entire life." when told we had to leave for supper - and he wasn't ready to go.

Rule 9: Never let a chance to amuse your brother pass. (Reptile Gardens.)

Rule 10: Never let a chance to relax pass - if you are a grandparent. (1880 train in Hill City.)

When asked where he'd like to go next summer with Grandpa and Grandma, Paul automatically replied, "The Black Hills." I liked that.


We bought a set of Grade One Brain Quest cards to play with while driving - simple short answer trivia questions that Miles was not interested in and Paul found way too simple. So we invented a new game. Answer the question with a defensible answer that was not the one given as correct. For example: What makes the ground white when it falls from the sky? Given answer: snow. Our challenge answers: sleet, hail, frozen ground fog, flower petals, etc. I worry a lot about this "one right answer" mentality schools so seem to love. This was way more fun - and subversive.


Nobody but Grandpa thought his idea of "kiddie kennels" was very good. These would be places parents could leave their children when they wanted to go on vacation alone. The children would get a small room, food, and care for the week they were there. For an extra fee, the children would be exercized and played with. I guess some of us are just ahead of our time.


One of the pleasures of going to the Black Hills is how little it has really changed since I remember going there as a child. The winding roads, the smell of pine, the thrill of bison crossing the road just ahead of your car. The one change I did not like was that jumping and diving from the rocks into Sylvan Lake is now illegal - something I remember as great fun on previous trips. The price we pay for living in a society with too many lawyers and not enough common sense, I suppose.


Your suggestions for next summer's trip with the boys? I am thinking Wisconsin Dells.


* Places we visited on this vacation:

  • Pipestone National Monument, Pipestone, MN
  • Corn Palace, Mitchell
  • Badlands National Park
  • Wall Drug where we had lunch with free ice water
  • Sylvan Lake, staying at the Sylvan Lake Resort, Custer State Park
  • Mount Rushmore and the evening lighting ceremony
  • Crazy Horse monument
  • Wind Cave, Natural Entrance tour
  • Mammoth Site, Hot Springs
  • Needles Highway (several times)
  • Black Hills Playhouse, attending the musical All Shook Up
  • Hike of Harney Peak
  • Jeep Wildlife Safari and cowboy cookout, Custer State Park
  • Cosmos Mystery Area (Paul's favorite)
  • Reptile Gardens
  • Drive on Iron Mountain road
  • 1880s Train Ride

Not bad for four days! (Other photos.)

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Reader Comments (5)

The boys had the time of their lives! However, I can't believe no one came up with "bird poop" for an answer to something white covering the ground. Or did you edit that out for good taste (which I obviously lack)?

August 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCarrie

This was fun to read because it brought back memories of our trip 2 years ago. We went to a lot of the same places (corn palace, wall, Pipestone, Badlands, Rushmore, Crazy Horse, Wind Cave). Thanks for sharing!

August 8, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPat

I took my grandkids to Jamestown (Virginia) last spring and they had a blast. They are from Mississippi so the idea of seeing their history book come alive was great. We rode the ferry across the James River from Scotchtown to Jamestown and as you cross you see the three ships. I don't think I would have survived 5 minutes in one of those ships!

Creating memories and time together...Priceless!

August 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCharlie Makela

Many things had to be accomplished for each image and location which is difficult enough without having remember where something might be, or having related items located on different sides of the vehicle.

August 12, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterprimigi shoes

What a nice adventure,The place looks so enjoyable because it is close to nature.An adventure together with the family is the most exciting moments because you are together making memories that will last forever.

September 13, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterprimigi

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